Despite Stalling Sales, Athleisure Continues to Take Market Share, According to NPD Study

Athleisure is still taking market share.

As consumers increasingly demand function and versatility, comfort and athleisure trends still lead the pack, swallowing the sales of major shoe styles, such as loafers and oxfords for men as well as flats and pumps for women, according to The NPD Group Inc.

The market research firm released its quarterly report today on footwear sales in the United States, with fashion, footwear and accessories analyst Beth Goldstein calling out the category’s strength versus that of fashion and performance shoe sales. While leisure footwear sales dipped a slight 1% to $3.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, fashion footwear dropped 12% to $2.4 billion; performance footwear declined 9% to $1.7 billion, compared to the same period last year.

“The story has been leisure for quite some time, which is being driven primarily by fashion or non-performance sneakers, but also includes outdoor categories like cold weather boots,” Goldstein said. “Fashion wasn’t all bad; there was some growth in women’s with fashion boots and more transitional, seasonless styles, such as loafers and mules or clogs. In men’s, pockets of success have popped up where comfort, athleisure and fashion have blended together.”

In the last several years, athleisure has become a favorite among fashion leaders, A-listers and style influencers. Largely thanks to millennial shoppers, Nike and Adidas still boast loyal fans and strong online traffic, and the streetwear market has expanded with the resurgence of logo-heavy ’90s fashion. (In fact, the Fila Disruptor 2 — a retro style with a chunky silhouette and elevated platform — was named FN’s 2018 Shoe of the Year.)

Excluding the 53rd week in the 2018 retail calendar, which fell in January last year, trends would have improved by about five percentage points across the three major categories: fashion, leisure and performance. NPD’s senior industry advisor of sports, Matt Powell, added that later and lower IRS refunds as well as the Easter holiday celebrated much later than last year (from April 1 to April 20) also affected consumer spending.

“In particular, performance footwear, especially basketball, and brands focused on this category underperformed in Q1,” Powell said. “A bright spot continues to be that smaller brands are thriving and growing faster than the overall market.”  Vans, Puma, Brooks, Fila and Reebok were among the names cited.

NPD compiles its quarterly report using information from its monthly point-of-sale footwear database. It is collected from the athletic specialty/sporting goods, premium, mid-tier, shoe chain and other channels.

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